"Under Plenty of Perjury"


Funny; you can see the original here. As you might gather, this isn't the first time someone made this particular mistake, though it seems pretty rare. (Of course, typos and other such errors more generally are very common, including in articles that have been proofread many times before being published, and not just in court papers filed in a rush.)

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  1. Irony deficiency anemia cured!

  2. They’re harder to find when they take the form of a correctly spelled word in a grammatically acceptable sentence. It is sometimes good to proofread starting with the last page of the document and from the bottom of the page. It also helps when the proofreader is not familiar with the case.

    1. The last sentence is so important. It is VERY hard to proofread a document you are extremely familiar with. Your eyes glaze right over errors.

      1. No, it’s more than that — your eyes literally see what you expect to see (that’s how optical illusions work) and if you know what it is *supposed* to say, you will see it saying that.

  3. Another good method is to use text-to-speech rather than eyes. Ears don’t have nearly the ability to skip over and otherwise fill in what you expect to be there. Although that still won’t help with correctly spelled homophones.

    1. Soronel, I once suffered what was almost a proofreader’s nervous breakdown. I was well into the small hours on the graveyard shift. I was proofing type for an annual report, for a high-tech company. The work was behind schedule, and the pressure was on. It had to be on the client’s desk by 6 a.m. I was very tired.

      I came upon a longish paragraph which contained different words, but spelled alike. They were, “unionized,” like in labor relations, and, “unionized,” like in physics. It had never occurred to me that those two were spelled alike, never mind that they could show up in the same paragraph.

      I cross checked them. It seemed perverse, as if it were a snare set deliberately to confound a tired proofreader. The wonder of it stopped me cold for several minutes.

      I guess that’s what passes for high drama among proofreaders. I mention it because, probably, text-to-speech would have pronounced them alike, merely adding to the momentary befuddlement.

  4. Was making the “very common” hyperlink broken an intentional joke, or Muphry’s Law in action?

    1. Totally Muphry’s Law. (Just fixed it.)

      1. You’re on a role, Professor.

  5. A lot of times this is the result of an overly helpful spell-checking software. I disable auto-correct whenever possible for just that reason.

    1. I can identify with that. When I was a new associate I wrote a long memo on claims-made policy coverage. The word “claims” must have appeared 50 times. A last-minute spell check somehow changed “claims” to “clams” and I didn’t see it until the partner called my attention to it. It kind of vitiated the force of my argument.

  6. When you absolutely must avoid typos, this works. It’s what professional proofreaders do:

    1. Always read against source text, never without it.

    2. Read syllable-by-syllable, not word-by-word, cross-check source copy after each syllable.

    3. Slow down for any word of more than two syllables. Missed errors tend to crop up in the trailing syllables of familiar long words.

    4. Be especially on the lookout for trouble when you proof especially familiar stuff, like your own name.

    1. John Littlewood in his excellent “Littlwood’s Miscellany” recounts once challenging fellow mathematician G. H. Hardy to find a typo on the proof of a certain page of a joint paper. After Hardy gave up, Littlewood pointed out the error: G, H. Hardy

    2. Another useful tip is to watch out for phonetically intuitive homophones. For example, when pushing an authoritarian coup it’s not ‘marshal law’ but ‘martial law’ you’d be urging the President to enact to overturn an election.

    3. And read backwards from the end, word by word.

  7. Had one where seeking relief from his client’s guilty plea counsel’s motion sought to “defecate a plea.” I have no idea what he was going for.

    1. “defecate a plea.” Sorry, I have no idea — never did crinimal law.

      1. Um, he had a shitty lawyer? 😉

        1. What a crappy thing to say about his counsel.

        2. I knew something like that would come out.

          1. Now try putting it back in.

    2. True story: I saw the verification called out on Twitter and thought the joke was that Lin Wood was swearing to a conspiracy theory.

      It wasn’t until I saw this post pointing it out that I noticed the typo …

    3. Defecate a pleading?

  8. I found this excerpt online many years ago, and re-read it whenever I suspect I am getting overly confident of my proofreading skills.
    The Perfect Book
    By William Keddie
    The Foulis’s editions of classical works were much praised by scholars and collectors in the nineteenth century. The celebrated Glasgow publishers once attempted to issue a book which should be a perfect specimen of typographical accuracy. Every precaution was taken to secure the desired result. Six experienced proof-readers were employed, who devoted hours to the reading of each page; and after it was thought to be perfect, it was posted up in the hall of the university, with a notification that a reward of fifty pounds would be paid to any person who could discover an error. Each page was suffered to remain two weeks in the place where it had been posted, before the work was printed, and the printers thought that they had attained the object for which they had been striving. When the work was issued, it was discovered that several errors had been committed, one of which was in the first line of the first page.
    — As found in “A Passion for Books,” by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan.

    1. That happened the year I was a law review editor. We proofread and double proofread the whole issue. When printed, there was a double word (“in in”) on the first page of the first article.

  9. I always wonder if most things like this are just a case of a misspelling, “pelnaty” for instance, and the spell checker corrects it to the wrong word entirely.

  10. As a proofreader at the Lawyers Co-operative Publishing Company in the ’80s, there were at least a couple of times we corrected “…kissing in pubic places…”

  11. I worked at a computer-assisted court reporting company (Baron Data!) in the 1970s and 1980s. The computer translation of shorthand to English was personalized but of course not perfect. If faced with a choice of translating the next three syllables as two syllables and one syllable, or one syllable and two syllables, it chose two-one because it had to make some choice.

    Some judge had said “we’d like to have your input on this problem” and the automatic translation came out as “urine put on this problem”. The reporter got chewed out by the judge for not proofreading well enough.

  12. I wonder if this would have and effect on the ability to enforce 1746.

  13. True story: I saw the verification called out on Twitter and thought the joke was that Lin Wood was swearing to a conspiracy theory.

    It wasn’t until I saw this post pointing it out that I noticed the typo …


  14. When I was an undergrad, I learned the trick to assist my proofreading. I would read my papers backwards, sentence by sentence.

  15. “Plenty of perjury.”

    A deluge of deception.

    A multitude of mendacity.

    Or, simply


  16. We’ve now heard “the announcement that the [New York] Times has finally reached the same conclusion as Canadian prosecutors and American intelligence officials. The most important question left for readers is: What took them so long?” [quoting Columbia Journalism Review, at https://www.cjr.org/public_editor/new-york-times-public-editor-callimachi-is-not-jayson-blair-but-questions-remain.php ].

    I post this solely because some errors take time to notice and correct… some more than others: as an example, the NY Times has been reporting garbage for two years and now proclaims only a slight “woops.” Election errors take even longer to uncover and report.

  17. I’m a pretty good touch-typist, but I have to be careful when I type the word “lawsuit.” Many times I’ve caught myself typing “lawshit” instead. To my knowledge, I’ve always caught the mistake in time.

    1. How much time?

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